Friday, September 23, 2011
It is the last week of September. Since 1982 this has been the appointed time for the beginning of Banned Books Week. This week is the result of the efforts of anti-censorship activist Judith Krug. Notice of this week fluctuates in the media from time to time so some of you may know of it and some may not. It is not really the hotbed First Amendment issue that many would like it to be.
The obvious point of this week (moreso back in the 80's than now) is to highlight what is available for public consumption in libraries or what could be imported from abroad through customs. The idea that books such as Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye would be banned today is laughable. The spectrum of what is acceptable has widened considerably. In modern times with the Internet the battles over censorship has taken a more technological bent. With the availability of controversial materials on the Internet the public library is no longer the sole battleground so that battle is not really worth the effort. Without the safety valve of the Internet, then yes, censorship in the library would certainly be back in the forefront.
Now there certainly are issues about which books should be used in schools and available in school libraries. Social tolerances do change over the years and the local debates about what should and should not be available is a healthy debate. So while I am a defender of the First Amendment in regards to what I choose to read or see I fully support a parents right to have a say what is used in school.
Still though even with the muted nature of this week there is still a conflict which does occasionally spill over into the public library over what is available primarily in regards to children. While few books are actually banned, many are challenged on various grounds. This is the debate in the public square which as I said earlier is healthy in a functioning democracy.
When it comes down to brass tax the ultimate use nowadays for this week is more publicity for libraries than anything else. The whole specter of the banned and taboo does put bodies in the seats. So while you will read a story or two about some book 'banned' for a century finally being put back on a shelf in some backwater village this week while cool is much ado about nothing.
For more info of the week.
Article - Banned Books Week is just hype.
50 Banned Books That Everyone Should Read
Thursday, September 8, 2011
What 'era' are we in? Are we in Anno Domini which means "In the Year of our Lord" or are we in the 'Common Era'? You may or may not have noticed this shift. The term A.D. used to be ubiquitous in its use. Now it is slowly being revised away. This secular change has not been dramatic. It has been incremental, as they usually are. It is the usual creeping doom eroding the vibrant culture of this country. I don't remember seeing too widespread when I was in college - not too long ago I might add. I think that only one of my professors used C.E. / B.C.E. I truly started seeing the edits on Wikipedia and other places just a few years ago, so it is just starting to make itself public.
I am Catholic. I am conservative. However, I would not call myself a religious conservative. I am not a born again Evangelical. So the take that I have on this change is not one of 'right wing' religious conviction. (I do have my right wing rants). It is more annoyance at yet another baseless charge from the Ivory-tower elites in the 'Left'.
I am tremendously annoyed at this as a historian. By making the statement, 'I live in the year A.D. 2011' one is not espousing their Christian faith or any allegiance to the Church. I don't see a Jew or Muslim who says this statement casting away their faith. They are simply stating the year in which they live reckoned after the birth of a civilization changing individual. Nobody is saying that you must use this calendar. However, those people who have nothing better to do than nitpick at every reference to God in Western culture feel that the use of A.D. is beyond the pale and offensive. However, I would like to point out that the Julian / Gregorian calendar was adopted, not forced upon the world. Don't give me any nonsense about colonialism or the expansion of empire. The empires of old are gone. Nobody is preventing you from using your own calendar today.
Yes, the dating system was based in religion and more precisely the religious issues of the Roman Empire. Nobody is arguing that point. However, for most people it is just how the year is reckoned. Nobody truly cares! The reckoning point itself is flawed. Jesus himself was born anywhere from either 4 B.C. to 6 A.D.
So Why am I annoyed? Well, several reasons. As an American I am tired of seeing the hand-wringing of liberals at every public display of some American tradition based in religion, usually Christian. They assume that everybody is offended. We live in a society of free-religion, not freedom from religion. We do not live in a secular state. Religion is free and public.
Secondly, just what in the heck is the bloody 'Common Era'. That is the purely, most idiotic, point in this whole debate. What is the event which precipitates the 'Common Era'. Oh gee, what happened roughly 2011 years ago... Please, if you are going to invent a new calendar then you need to reckon that calendar from a new point. Don't sully my calendar - go use your own! You could use the birth of Lenin, the first Mayday celebration, Che Guevara's birthday, etc. You need a new reckoning point which suits your ideological bent.
Finally, why is there no outcry against the names of the months or days? It is perfectly fine to revere Roman Emperors and Norse Gods, but not O.K. to use Jesus Christ's birthday. It is purely hypocritical.
So I will use A.D. and B.C. exclusively on this blog because I am not ashamed of my culture and history.